Archive for the ‘Pyschoanalysis’ Category

Last week Nicolas Roeg’s classic art horror was released in a digitally restored Blu-ray version. It came with a shinny blue sticker noting that this very restoration had been ‘supervised and approved’ by Nic Roeg himself. How re-assuring I thought, despite the fact that I had already decided to buy it.

The film once again got me thinking about imagery and psychology in film and recalled some reading I did into Jungian analytical psychology. In relation to this it was once said that “Film is the art of seeing in the dark.” As cinema goers we are all well aware of the notion of sitting in a dark room and becoming immersed in someone else’s life. An analogy between cinema and dreaming has long been drawn, films appearing to us as dream-like, while our dreams are experienced – at least to our waking minds – like movies. The blurred boundaries between film and dream allow film to be a platform for seeing in the dark.

Jungian psychology is a psychology of images, for this very reason it is important to consider the theory in relation to cinema, it itself a world of images. With this in mind the concept of ‘seeing in the dark’ is neatly linked with the ideas of dreaming and the unconscious mind. One can propose that the ‘dark’ can be related to part of the unconscious mind and that dream offers the ability to see. Building on this the representations of dreams in film and film as dream-like, can suggest films to be a light in the unconscious dark.

It can be argued that Don’t Look Now depicts this idea of dream on film and film as seeing in the dark. The very beginning of the film up until John’s daughter Christine drowns can be accepted as reality. As her life edges closer to death, her brother cracks a mirror and John spills a glass of water. As well as this Christine is seen in the reflection of the water, she is upside down in the frame. Roeg uses these elements of mise-en-scene to imply dream or another world as glass and water have the ability to reflect a version of reality. It can therefore be suggested that the water and mirror are representative of transitional spaces between the real world and the dream world. This fact that Christine’s reflection is upside down creates the illusion that she is on the other side of reality. As John enters the water to save Christine he too enters a dream world. This is reinforced in the next shot the viewer sees a book on the couch that John was previously reading titled ‘Beyond the geometry of time and space’, which is again hinting at the notion of another world. This even further re-enforced as the rest of the film takes place in Venice, a world that is not John’s normal world, but one that seems as real, and one in which his dreams can manifest themselves. Wright (1974) concurs ‘the reality of one of those dreams whose circumstance we do not accept as part of our daily experience, but whose intensity seems to produce a conviction of reality superior to actuality itself.’ Therefore the film can be considered as a dream and dreams are gateways to the unconscious, consequently producing the ability to see in the dark.

If it can be accepted that the film provides the ability to ‘see in the dark’ through its interplay with the unconscious mind, we can begin to explore it further. The film is populated with the colour red and the girl in the red rain coat. The notion of the re-occurring figure in red is central to the film in terms of dream. This can be said to be because John feels guilt for his daughter’s death. He allowed her to play near the water, which Laura blames him for in the early scenes of the film. If any part of the film is to be related to dream it is the scenes that involve John chasing the ‘girl’ in red as the scenes relate to his guilt and grief over her death. These scenes relate to the notion that dreams provide the necessary corrective or compensatory images. In John’s case the compensatory image is that of his daughter, as his guilt is routed deep in his unconscious. Hockley (2001) notes that ‘The symbol comes from the unconscious and is a means of expressing a concept or truth that has been grasped by the intuitive part of the psyche, but that has yet to find conscious expression.’ The symbol of the red coat is one that is produced by the unconscious to help John morn his daughter’s death and accept it, in an attempt to return a balance to the psyche.

There is one particular section of Don’t Look Now that has several visual clues to suggest that John is in a dream world. At approximately 35 minutes into the film, John and Laura get lost in a labyrinth of alley ways in the dead of night. As John walks through one archway he appears bemused and states that he knows this place. The use of archways and alleys, by Roeg, can be seen as transitional spaces to John’s dream world, in which he sees the manifestation of his dead daughter. John find his way again and is no longer lost, after seeing the red coated figure, a possible compensatory image for his grief. John shouts to Laura ‘I’ve found the real world it’s down here.’ This asks the question, if that is the real world what world was he just in? Roeg uses dialogue to imply the dream world, John was in his unconscious. To finish this scene there is an incredible visual metaphor for the experience John just had. As they exit the alley onto the main street, the viewer can see with clarity, amongst the darkness, a neon sign that reads ‘Ottica’ with a pair of glasses underneath it. One can assume that this is an opticians and it is the only light in the dark alley. Therefore John’s dream world experience is a means of seeing in the dark.

Whether you choose to read into Don’t Look Now with Jungian Psychology or not, it will always be a mysterious and chilling film. The Blu-ray reboot is worth a purchase, with added interviews from Danny Boyle and Donald Sutherland, he still insists that the sex scene was acted, they add further intrigue to a film that is already excellent at leaving an impression.

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